New section to be added to Towpath Trail near Bolivar

New section to be added to Towpath Trail near Bolivar

Volunteers clear away debris near the McDonnell Trailhead in preparation for construction of a section that will connect the trail to Bolivar.


Work is slated to begin this summer on a quarter-mile section of the Towpath Trail near Bolivar, connecting the McDonnell Trailhead to the village. Currently people wanting to continue from the trail into Bolivar have to travel along state Route 212 for a short stretch. That stretch, however, features a sharp turn with limited visibility and limited shoulder access.

“This connection will make the visitor experience safer and more enjoyable,” said Jesse Rothacher, park manager of TuscParks. “Then they can just follow the trail maintained by the Village of Bolivar into Fort Laurens and from there continue through the county’s portion of the Towpath Trail.”

The new section will include an elevated boardwalk that is being added to avoid disturbing protected wildlife.

While it is near Bolivar, the connecting section of the trail does not fall within village boundaries. However, Bolivar Mayor Rebecca Hubble credits the trail with bringing more visitors into town.

“It has had a huge impact,” Hubble said. “And if people truly follow the trail, it will take them into downtown Bolivar. We see a lot of people who use the trail coming into downtown because of that.”

Hubble said there’s a reason the trail was designed to bring folks into downtown. “The original Ohio & Erie Canal and Towpath were located where our Canal Street is today. In fact I talked to a group of hikers in front of my house last week that were planning to hike the trail all the way to Cleveland. I told them if they wanted to get the true trail experience, they had to go through downtown Bolivar, and they did,” she said.

Dan Rice, president and CEO of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, said the goal is to bid the project in July and for the trail to be under construction by fall with an estimated completion at the end of 2020.

“The Towpath Trail is a real quality-of-life amenity for residents and for visitors because it serves a wide variety of purposes,” Rice said. “People are out there exercising, riding bikes, relieving stress from the workday or maybe stress at home or school.”

“The trail can also be used as a starting point for other outdoor activities such as bird watching, photography, camping and kayaking the adjacent rivers and canals,” said Kately Freil, communication manager for the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.

Beyond its value to those who use the trail for exercise, Rice noted the economic impact the Towpath Trail has on the communities it winds its way through.

“When companies look to build new facilities, they look for places that offer amenities like this for their employees,” Rice said.

The trail also brings visitors to cities and towns all along the 87 miles that have been completed to date.

According to an economic impact report from 2015, 2.5 million people use the Towpath Trail each year. In addition to the uses mentioned by Rice, people use the trail for running and cross country skiing, and there are marked sections that can be used for horseback riding.

One of the major fundraisers that keeps work on the Towpath Trail continuing, Taste of Tusc, had to be canceled this year due to COVID-19. However, the annual Canal Boat Captain’s Gall, which is usually held in Akron, is moving online and will include a virtual auction open to the public. The auction will take place June 18-25. More information is available at

The Ohio & Erie Canalway was designated a National Heritage Area by Congress in 1996 to help preserve and celebrate the rails, trails, landscapes, towns and sites that grew up along the first 110 miles of the canal that helped build America. More information on the canal and the Towpath Trail can be found at

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